Why soccer/football is “leftist”

Is this an Onion story? No, it’s real! Football is apparently “leftist.” American exceptionalism is alive and well. Could it be that the US doesn’t go in and win 85% of medals that therefore the sport is worthless? Or is it just contrarianism:

Beck blustered, “It doesn’t matter how you try to sell it to us, it doesn’t matter how many celebrities you get, it doesn’t matter how many bars open early, it doesn’t matter how many beer commercials they run, we don’t want the World Cup, we don’t like the World Cup, we don’t like soccer, we want nothing to do with it. … They continually try to jam it down our throat.” By this logic, one of the major leftist socialists who is pushing soccer is Beck’s employer, Rupert Murdoch, whose Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Soccer Plus show more soccer than any other networks. Furthermore, ESPN, which is broadcasting the World Cup, is devoting previously unseen amount of resources to their coverage for an American network. These networks, and big corporations like Budweiser and Coca-Cola, are not investing in soccer because of some leftist motivations, but because doing so is increasingly lucrative.

Remember when the right were delighted that Chicago didn’t get the Olympics because Obama was from there?


Wikileaks leaker allegedly arrested

Update: The military have confirmed the arrest, and that it is for leaking, so it is alleged no longer.

Update II: CJR has done a bit of digging regarding the the WaPo sitting on this video, and hints strongly that while the paper didn’t have the video, one of its journalists, who was on book leave, did.

The person who leaked the so-called “Collateral Murder” video of the US Apache helicopter attack on unarmed civilians in Baghdad, resulting in their deaths (including two Reuters journalists) has been arrested, according to a report in Wired.

The Wired report, which contains lots of details and information from friends of the man arrested, SPC Bradley Manning, says that Manning was arrested after he told a former hacker of his leaks. It also contains the news that Manning leaked other material, including 260,000 diplomatic cables from the US which has not been previously reported, as far as I know.

Wikileaks has denounced the news in its Twitter feed this morning, saying about the Wired reporters:

Adrian Lamo&Kevin Poulson are notorious felons,informers&manipulators. Journalists should take care.

Statement: Washington Post had Collateral murder video for over a year but DID NOT RELEASE IT it to the public.

Allegations in Wired that we have been sent 260,000 classified US embassy cables are, as far as we can tell, incorrect.

However, they have not yet denied the story, and claim in fact that their security protocols prevent them from even knowing the source of their leakers.

I’ve tried to follow this case, and spoke about it at the AAG in a panel organized by the US State Department Office of the Geographer on intellectuals and foreign policy. The reason is not so much in the details of any one particular leak (and the Pentagon has verified the authenticity of the “collateral murder” video) but in the reaction of Iceland, and the emergence of a group or initiative called Iceland Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), which has a cross-party proposal before the Icelandic parliament this month for protection of journalism and freedom of expression.

Basically, Iceland learned from its financial meltdown, which arose from secret bank dealings and unreported trading, that open government is better. Hence, a group of Icelandic MPs, led by Birgitta Jónsdóttir who has appeared alongside Assange, are pushing for more open government, including oversight. This is one of the few positive outcomes of the financial meltdown, and a lesson that sadly the UK and US have not learned.*

Here is some video of Julian Assange, the acknowledged founder of Wikileaks. There is also a long article in last week’s New Yorker.

*An anecdote. At the AAG panel the Chair,  State Department geographer Lee Schwartz, joked after my presentation that the volcano then erupting on Iceland must be some kind of retribution for its actions! Sad, huh.

Obama as son of the Enlightenment

This piece in the Daily Kos is essentially correct. Interesting that it appears in DK, which after all is a fairly mainstream liberal site, which supports the capitalist model (albeit constrained capitalism or “embedded liberalism”) and goes after the markets per se as being inimical to quality of life:

“where I was wrong was my belief that oil companies had their act together for worst case scenarios…Those assumptions proved to be incorrect.”

President Barack Obama, White House Press Conference, May 27, 2010

In progressive circles, various opinions have been forming about what type of President Barack Obama is. There are still some who believe that he can do no wrong and everything that he has done has resulted in the best achievable outcome. And there are those who believe that he is an unabashed corporate sellout and just a step away from being a Democrat in name only. And there are those who believe that Obama isn’t really in control after all and Rahm Emanuel is pulling the puppet strings.

But the biggest problem with Obama isn’t what he wants or doesn’t want. It’s what he thinks others want.

Obama really is a consensus-builder at heart. While he may have his preferences, his ultimate goal has been to put into practice his belief that our politics are not as divided as they suggest. The ability to find consensus, however, is contingent on a fundamental premise: that all interested parties with a seat at the table actually want to see the best possible outcome for all people and are working in the best of faith to that objective.

And those struggles have been between two sides that supposedly have the same ultimate objectives of good governance and promoting the general welfare of the American people. But what if the entity at the other side of the table doesn’t even have those objectives in mind? That’s precisely the situation we find ourselves in with transnational oil companies. And that is precisely what makes Obama’s admission about his own assumptions so frustrating.

The entire structure of Keynesian economics relies on government’s healthy distrust of the excesses of the private sector. A corporation’s job is to make money for its shareholders.

As I’ve noted before, Obama’s consensus-building model is based on a kind of Enlightenment rationality that pure knowledge can solve problems. As Foucault often pointed out however, there is no such thing as pure knowledge, rather there is power-knowledge.

Put another way, knowledge does not exist outside of politics. It’s politics all the way down.

Daily Kos and Foucault

The politics blog Daily Kos offers us a fairly reasonable synopsis of Foucault in its daily briefing today. Interesting to see the “Great Orange Satan” (aka Daily Kos) intersecting with MF, and making at least some feints towards an applied politics related to his work.

A snippet:

I mean, really, if hegemony is true and people relish in their own subjugation, and ideology anticipates change and accommodates, then where is the hope for a better, more just, more equitable world?

Some would answer there is none. That the core activist stance is simply in knowing the truth of those conditions, and then working against them as best as one may, but without any real expectation that the underlying structures will ever significantly change.

I differ.

If I, as a teacher, or a professor, or a dentist, or a janitor, or a parent, or a mechanic, or a manager, or a fisherman, or whatever, can ask of myself the questions I would ask of others, reflect on the questions and my own answers, and become more capable of meaningful insight and action as a result, therein is hope. If I can question the frames and ideologies I inherit and inhabit, if I can trouble the structures and practices of inequity and my own positions in them, then there is hope. If I can center myself, balance myself, by, as Foucault recommends, “working on the self” as an act of artistic creation of my own life (the core proposal of the technologies of self), I can not only begin to resist dominant ideology but may be better positioned to create improvement and progress at deep levels, if not in society as a whole, at least deeply within myself.

Terror alerts and politics

Tom Ridge’s recent confirmation that the Bush administration used terror alerts for political gain is currently getting attention in various political blogs (eg, Salon’s Glenn Greenwald). Ridge was Secretary of Homeland Security until his resignation in November 2004 shortly after the presidential election. In a new book, Ridge details meetings held within the administration in which the possibility of raising the terror alert was discussed just prior to the election. (Alertsd were also issued at other times which Ridge does not discuss.)

Although this is not directly about Foucault, it does parallel themes that he discussed in several places, namely the intersection of security, politics and governmentality. In that light it is interesting to see this discourse gradually seeping into the wider public sphere, and to see journalists who dismissed those who raised this issue as crazy be held accountable (Greenwald is shudderingly good on the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder).

This story will no doubt be watered down into exactly what Ridge or the Bush administration did or didn’t do, but we can put that aside for the historians and just consider for a moment how this affects what is considered acceptable political discourse. Greenwald cheekily emails one of the journalists who derided critics of the Bush administration as needing “psychological help” to ask if he thinks Ridge is similarly insane. Those who pointed out that the US is itself a terrorist state have long been marginalized, even within academia though mostly in the public mind (eg Noam Chomsky). (Foucault never said this of course.) I’m not sure if the pin has been moved on the political meter in the USA but I think this is a noteworthy story.


The events in Iran over the last two weeks have brought to mind for many people the revolution of 1978-9 and Foucault’s “journalism” during a couple of trips he made there. The latest is Bernard-Henri Lévy, who offers his thoughts in the Huffington Post today.

Some of Foucault’s reporting is online if you want to read it, eg., here, and a lot of stuff here associated around the Afary and Anderson book at the University of Chicago Press.

Added:By the way, there is a great feature of Youtube called Citizentube, where people are posting cell phone video from Iran of the protests. It includes the sad footage of Neda, a girl who was shot by a sniper and who has been described as both a martyr and the face of the movement.

Please also see Nico Pitney in the HuffPo for daily video and liveblogging.

Lettres de cachet: La vie des hommes infâmes

The Foucault Archives have released materials (sound file and manuscript facsimiles) from Foucault’s work with Arlette Farge, Michelle Perrot, and André Béjin on the so-called “lettres de cachet.”

This work is perhaps one of the most important remaining texts that has not seen an English translation.

Brief sound clip (in French).

Foucault’s manuscript page corrected typescript.